In nearly four decades of visiting Argentina, I’ve never been victim of a crime, though I experienced some anxious moments during the military dictatorship of 1976-83. In the course of researching and writing guidebooks to the country, though, I’ve always had to address issues of personal security, even though I’d never experienced any attempted attack or robbery—at least until yesterday in Buenos Aires.
In the course of writing multiple editions for a publisher now best left unnamed, I often received reams of reader mail, often touching upon issues of personal security. One common scenario in Argentina’s capital was being told that there were pigeon droppings on your shirt, or the “accidental” spilling of a cup of coffee followed by abject apologies that were, in fact, a distraction for a pickpocketing accomplice.
|My boarding station, at Plaza de Mayo, for the train back to Palermo|
|The Puente de la Mujer, a pedestrian bridge, is an entry point to the Puerto Madero neighborhood. Beyond the bricks and high-rises, Puerto Madero also offers wildlife-rich wetlands and even some small beaches.|
These stories were believable and, as I started to walk toward the Plaza de Mayo after a leisurely afternoon in Puerto Madero, I became part of one. On a narrow downtown street, with few other people, I felt some moisture on my back and, then, a middle-aged man animatedly pointed at my trouser leg. I’m not paranoid about personal safety, because I feel comfortable here, but this aroused my suspicion immediately.
|When I got home, this is what my shirt looked like...|
It’s worth mentioning that I was openly carrying a SLR in my right hand, and also had a wallet and a smartphone in my jeans pockets (though neither was visible), so I probably fit the profile of an easy target. My response to the man, who addressed me in halting English, was the Spanish-language equivalent of “Bugger off!” He didn’t exactly run away, but he didn’t persist either, and I saw no likely accomplice.
|and this is what my jeans looked like.|
Heading toward the Subte to catch a train home, I seated myself on the steps of a building to put my camera into my daypack, and discovered what appeared to be a creamy substance there and on my shirt as well. On arriving home, I changed clothes and took a shower and, this morning, I took everything to a nearby laundry. In the end, a portion of 120 pesos (about $6.50) was all the incident cost me—I already had a partial load in need of cleaning.